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Awards of the Silver Star

Conspicuous Gallantry in Action



The Silver Star Medal is the United States' THIRD HIGHEST award exclusively for combat valor, and ranks fifth in the precedence of military awards behind the Medal of Honor, the Crosses (DSC/NC/AFC), the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (awarded by DOD), and the Distinguished Service Medals of the various branches of service. It is the highest award for combat valor that is NOT unique to any specific branch; it has been bestowed by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. It may be given by any one of the individual services to not only their own members, but to members of other branches of service, foreign allies, and even to civilians for "gallantry in action" in support of combat missions of the United States military.

Because the Silver Star is ONLY awarded for combat valor, the only devices worn on it are:

  • Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of additional Army/AF awards
  • Silver Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of a SIXTH Army/AF award
  • Gold Star in lieu of additional Navy/USMC awards
  • Silver Star in lieu of a SIXTH Navy/USMC award.

(Seven Awards of the Silver Star then, would be displayed on the ribbon as a Silver OLC and 1 Bronze OLC for Army or Air Force. For Navy/Marine Corps Awards it would be a Silver Star plus 1 Gold Star.)

The Silver Star was established by President Woodrow Wilson as a "Citation Star" during World War I, and was solely a U.S. Army award, though it was presented by the War Department (U.S. Army) to members of the Navy and to U.S. Marines. (More on that can be found in the introductory pages to WWI awards.) Originally it provided for a 3/16" silver star to be worn on on the ribbon of the service medal for the campaign for service in which the citations were given. Based loosely upon the earlier Certificate of Merit, the Citation Star was available retroactively to those who distinguished themselves by gallantry as far back as the Spanish-American War. (Subsequently it has been awarded for gallantry to Civil War heroes who were similarly cited for gallantry in action.) Prior to 1932 the General Orders announcing awards of the "Citation Star" typically began:

"By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 19, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), the following-named officers and enlisted men are cited for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded to such officers and enlisted men." (A narrative of the act or acts followed for each man thus cited.)

On February 22, 1932, the date that would have been George Washington's 200th birth day, Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur revived General Washington's "Badge for Military Merit (1782)" as the Purple Heart. That same year he also successfully advocated for conversion of the "Citation Star". When his recommendation was approved by the Secretary of War, the 3/16' silver star was converted from a ribbon device" to a full-fledged MEDAL.

The Silver Star Medal was designed by Rudolf Freund of Bailey, Banks and Biddle, and consisted of a gilt-bronze five-pointed (point-up in contrast to the point-down design of the Medal of Honor) star bearing a laurel wreath at its center. The ribbon design incorporated the colors of the flag, and closely resembled the medals earliest predecessor, the Certificate of Merit Medal. The reverse of the medal is blank, save for the raised text "For Gallantry in Action", beneath which is usually engraved the name of the recipient.

The gold hue of the gilt-bronze star seems at odds with the award's name, Silver Star. That title derives from the medal's World War I lineage and the 3/6" silver star, once displayed on a victory ribbon, and now prominently displayed in the center of the medal.

The Silver Star Medal remained exclusively an Army decoration until August 7, 1942, nearly a year after World War II began. On that date the Silver Star Medal was expanded by Act of Congress for award by the Navy Department for actions on or after December 7, 1941, (Public Law 702, 77th Congress).

We estimate that the number of Silver Stars awarded World War I to present is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000. While that number seems quite large, when compared to the more than 30 million American men and women who have served in uniform during that time period, it is obvious that the Silver Star is a rare award, bestowed on fewer than 1 in every 250 veterans of military service.


General Douglas MacArthur who, in 1932 successfully advocated for elevation of the Citation Star to become a Medal for Gallantry, himself earned SEVEN Citation Stars in World War I. The TEN awards of the Silver Star by one man, who also earned TWO Distinguished Service Crosses, is unmatched by any other veteran in history.

Colonel DAVID HASKELL HACKWORTH, U.S. Army (November 11, 1930 to May 4, 2005), received THREE Silver Stars for gallantry in action during the Korean War, and then earned SEVEN additional Silver Stars for gallantry in action during the Vietnam War.

For several years as we have posted citations for the top two levels of awards at HomeOfHeroes.com we have received multiple and repeated requests to establish a similar database for awards of the Silver Star. Because of the sheer number of awards, initially I felt it would be impossible to establish that database. My experience with the others however, have given me hope that we can in fact, accomplish this new mission. The pages linked below are part of a work-in-progress, an estimated 3-year project, to compiled and post the names and citations of ALL Silver Star recipients from ALL branches of service and in ALL wars and conflicts. I welcome your EMAIL with information on any recipients, additions and/or corrections to all posted information, and especially encourage our visitors to submit ANY Silver Star citations you may have. 

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